2012-10-21, 04:29 PM (ISO 8601)
Colossus in the Playground
Re: Aether from the Ashes: Etherworld Second Edition
“Demiplanes. Worlds. There are many names, and they all mean the same. We all know what Demiplanes are, as we live on and in them. Unless we have any Shardite students here, of course. Or elemental students. No offence. Oh, and students from the Shadow world, yes. Now, where was I?”
-Magister Findelwald Tungsten, Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geology
Demiplanes are artificially created worlds. Most of those known today, be they in the Border or the Core, were created during the Cataclysm, when they were most sorely needed. None, as far as anyone can tell, were created since, but there are worlds, such as the dreaded Moil or Neth, the Living Plane, that are far older.
All of the cataclysmic planes, which are those making up the vast majority of the inhabited Known Worlds, share a few common features:
From the outside, they are perfect spheres of around half a mile in diameter that float in the Deep Aether. They can have many colours, but most are slightly opalescent, reminding some of pearls. All worlds have a world wall, a shimmering wall of unyielding force that envelops it on the inside and outside, and most worlds can not be entered without knowing some secret password or ritual, at least until they were first opened by a Planar Penetrator, at which point they are open to all.
On the inside, Demiplanes are vastly larger than on the outside, the largest dozens of miles in diameter. They can have almost any composition and structure their creators could think of and most exhibit some weird and often unique magical or physical phenomenon.
At the exact center of every Demiplane lies the Heartstone. This magical gem is a remnant of the creation process that defines the exact nature of the Plane. It is utterly immovable, in some Demiplanes even floating in midair. Additionally, the creator of many planes have bound magical effects bound to the Heartstone, which are continually activated on the plane. Examples of this include the weather systems of Bellamin and Caligo, or the eternally regenerating resources of Ashaton , which are all thanks to the effects of their Heartstones.
The Demiplanes continually move through the Aether, blown by the invisible ethereal winds, changing their positions relative to each other. It is this fact that makes ethereal navigation so difficult and unreliable.
4. The Core Worlds
What are the Core World
The Guild's network is wide and diverse, spanning over a hundred worlds and linking them with trade routes. However, amongst those worlds, there are six of a preferred status, that are referred to as Core Worlds. Sirnia was the first, of course, the Guild World itself, from where the Guild controls the bureaucracy and guild courts and administers trade routes and the distribution of goods for maximum profit. Caligo was included as the ancestral world of many of the first guild members, and with it came Belamin and Ember, not only for their resources, but also they already shared connections with Caligo. While it is technically possible for other Worlds to join the Core Worlds if they can prove their economic, geographic and political security and stability, only two other Planes were allowed to join, so far.
The Core Worlds were, with tremendous effort, stabilized in the Aether, so that they barely move relative to each other. From this nexus of six stable worlds, the Guild trade network stretches outwards like a gigantic, three-dimensional web. The Guild makes a careful effort to direct the flow of most goods through the Core Worlds, even if they are destined from one Border world to another. The taxes and tariffs resulting from this have given the Core Worlds riches unparalelled in worlds that were used to living with the barest minimum for a thousand years.
Interestingly, art and fashion are living through an interesting development. In the Core, everything has to be exotic. Emberite politicians pay outrageous wages for unusual servants and bodyguards from the Border and no Caligan Gentleman can host a party without showing off some new curiosity found by an expedition to a hitherto unknown world or corner of some distant plane. In the Border, however, the opposite is taking place: Core-inspired fashions are the big thing and the petty aristocracy is desperate for any news of trends from Ember or Caligo, in order to appear civilized to any visiting dignitaries.
“What is worth preserving of the Bygone Age? Not the empires, and the politics, they brought only strife. Not the magic, for it could not save the world, and will only break it again. Safe two things, and two things only: save nature, for it is beauty. Save art, for it is truth.”
“I am not saying that art serves no purpose. Art stirs up emotions, and emotions are the most powerful tool there is. The guild does admire art, but it does not acquire it. It has, however, need to acquire wood. Vast quantities of wood.”
-Lura Moggach, Guild Elderwoman
“Oooh, how picturesque!”
When the Cataclysm loomed near on the prime, a circle of druids and bards came together to create a demiplane, not to save themselves, but to save the greatest achievements and wonders of the dying world.
They raised the new world of Belamin from the Aether, a land of craggy mountains and deep forest. All attempts were made to create a land as close as possible to the prime in all aspects. The sky was blue, the Earth bountiful, even a sun was created, a bound ancient elemental of radiance that would sit at the center of the world to provide light and life.
They brought mystical and rare creatures from all over the land to live here: the fey of nature, mystical beasts, rare and exotic animals. And in the endless caves beneath the mountains, they stored the art of the prime, paintings, statues and crafts of all kind, all that was judged beautiful.
Only few went to live in that plane, afterwards. Some of the druids and bards, to become keepers of the land, to see that the art was maintained, and the nature watched. To conserve the nature of the plane, there were never much more than a few hundred to a thousand mortals here, in in three semi-nomadic tribes and numerous smaller groups that lived in the wild on their own.
Belamin has been part of the Core Worlds since before the term was officially used. The Belaminans have always kept their border to the Aether more open than most, and as a result they had loose ties with the inhabitants of Caligo and Ember even before the Guild was founded, though these ties were maintained only by small groups of brave individuals launching themselves into the Aether without ships or proper navigation.
Since Belamin has joined the Core Worlds, it has become the location of much activity: though many of the inhabitants do not like it, the world is the Known World's prime repository for wood, including many rare and magical woods that are much desired by the guild.
Since the world's culture is strongly focused on the oratory, the Belaminans make great diplomats and traders, when they put their minds to it, and many captains, traders, ambassadors and orators hail from the world, or go to there to study.
Belamin was conceived to contain many of the most productive climate zones of the old Prime, all in close proximity. The entire world is basically a sloping plane. At one end lie forested swamps and mangroves, and from there, the climate becomes gradually colder as one encounters broadleaf forests, pine forests and mountain heaths, before the world turns into jagged, bare mountains where the land meets the worldwall on the opposing side.
Traditionally, and by the law of the tribes, Belamin is divided into three areas, the warm and swampy Lowlands, the rainy, forested Midlands and cold, mountainous Highlands, each inhabited by one tribe. Much of the Lowlands is separated from the Midlands by wide, but shallow expanses of water.
The landscape and flora of Belamin may remind those who still remember it of the Prime, but it is both smaller and more grandiose in scale. Condensed, some call it. There are towering black cliffs a mile high and glaciers bristling with jagged blue ice a mere few hours walk from shallow green swamps teeming with life and towering trees so tall they seem to touch the sky. Hundreds of species of plant grow here, and nowhere else in the world, from unassuming green creepers to perhaps the most beautiful of all, the translucent gemstone orchids.
Those trees are, indeed, Belamin's most precious resource, for in the deepest depths of the forest, many magical woods grow, such as the fabled Dark- and Heartwood, hard as steel and many times more valuable than gold.
Below the ground, however, lies a whole other world on Belamin, the caverns, as they are imaginatively called. Twisting tunnels lead down form many spots in the surface, to deep, magically dry caves in the rock where ancient art and writings from before the Cataclysm lie stored. The caves are kept in total darkness, and often sealed to prevent damage. However, they are not guarded, and anyone is free to look at the art whenever they want, as long as they can brave the dark cave labyrinth and remove nothing. Artists often travel to the shallowest caves for inspiration, and climbing the many miles down to the deepest caves is seen as an especially trying pilgrimage for sinners and adventurers.
While there are only few mortals living in Belamin by tradition, there are untold other creatures there. No other world has a diversity of animal life even remotely comparable. On top of that, the creators made a point of saving as many rare magical beasts, fey of nature, animated plants and elemental creatures as they could find. It is often jokingly said that one can not turn over a stone in Belamin without the stone complaining, and it is not far from the truth: in this world, everything is potentially alive, and even the rocks may merely be sleeping elementals.
Perhaps the most impressive of these is the “Sun” of Belamin, an elder elemental of radiance that bathes the entire plan in powerful, golden light infused by positive energy and makes the unparalelled growth possible. This ancient, creature, sworn and dedicated to its duty, is bound to the Heartstone of Belamin, which hovers alongside it under the greenish-blue sky. The Heartstone is a disc of perfectly black, opaque stone, which changes its size in slow, twelve hour pulses, letting only tiny, starlike points of light through at night. The heartstone, which is extraordinarily complex, does other things as well: it regulates the temperature and weather of Belamin, creating four seasons, as well as snow, rain and occasional violent storms.
While there have been conflicts between the tribes and the druidic circles and shamanic hermits common to the plane, these were almost always resolved peacefully: the Belaminans have developed a culture of conflict solving based on words and wits. While small conflicts will be deescalated in regulated contests of debate, tale-telling and intimidation, strife between the tribes is solved in the annual Thing, where matters would be debated and, if no satisfactory resolution is to be found, the Skalds solve the matter in their ways.
Of the great historic Skalds of Belamin, many tales are told, though many seem unlikely. Cynemaer Alfsong was said to have a voice so beautiful that the sun trees would weep around him. Legends say that the Empress of Ember herself came to visit him, and abandoned her jewels at his feet, saying that their beauty would forever seem pale to her now. Roderich Ansoberth was said to be over six hundred years old, and responsible for charming the sun into staying in the skies forever. Perhaps the most famous is Theodoar Thundervoice, who came to his name when he learnt how to split boulders in twain with a single word, and repelled a Nathri invasion by defeating one warrior after the other in intimation contests, talking for a week without resting.
Naturally, not all Belaminans are peaceful, even when their culture traditionally discourages battle. Youths from the tribal villages have their own traditions: humiliating the other tribes in every conceivable way is a long-standing tradition and risky sports, displays of bravado and spectacular pranks are very respected ways of gaining status. The raiding of cattle and other goods is not a rare occurrence either, though most these, short a “Fee for Keeping your Goods safe”, are usually returned at the Thing.
Most of the Belaminans, if they do not follow any of the major philosophies, worship nature in a rather vague and abstract way, keeping a thousand oral customs of when to do or not to do certain things, of the right times for hunts and harvests, of what to eat or not to eat, of the sacrifices that must be made at the rocks, groves and ponds of powerful spirits. There are few priests on Belamin, and even the druids are seen merely as those who have dedicated more time to the study of spirit lore rather than divinely invested by nature in any way.
Apart from these commonalities, the three tribes have very different cultures.
The Lowlanders are nomadic, traveling the swamps, rivers and mangroves on large house boats and rafts, fishing with throwing nets and barbed javelins, the same weapons they use skillfully in warfare. A lowland man, it is said, can outswim a shark and wrestle an alligator any day of the weak.
The Midlanders are the most sessile and culturally the closest to the other “civilized” Core worlds. They live on large farmsteads, massive living buildings housing three or four generations of one family clan, surrounded by stables and barns, ringed by strong wooden palisades to keep the wandering and not always friendly forest natives out. They herd cows and plant crops on small forest clearings and are seen as richer, though perhaps also lazier and softer, by the other tribes.
The Highlanders are quiet, solitary people, living in small families on the meagre heaths and stony crags, mountain hunters and goat herds. The Windsong, as they call it, is often the only communication between families, a way of sing-song shouting that can be heard even on distant peaks. The sling is a Highlander's weapon of choice, and their master slingers can reliably kill a man at two hundred paces.
On the whole, the Belaminans have an interesting reputation amongst the other Coreworlders: they are seen as somewhat barbaric, loud and direct where the common courtesy of the Emberites and Caligans demands a hundred words and a thousand hidden meanings. But for all that, they are also shrewed investigators and often skilled orators, as the Guild has found time and time again when they tried to purchase Belaminan wood in bulk, only to run into a wall of rock solid spiritual conviction. Those Belaminans that turn from their plane not rarely make great explorers, traders and captains, or feared pirates, if the mood should strike them.
There are no cities or grand structures on Belamin, the kind that might be encountered on Caligo or Ember. There are the scattered farmsteads of the Midlanders, the low stone huts of the Highlanders and, twice per year, the Swimming Town when the Lowlander's boats meet in the great lagoon.
Doru is the greatest tree in Belamin, where by tradition, the Thing takes place. It is an impressive tree, as wide in diameter as a small ship is long, and high enough that legends claim that from the tallest branches, one can touch the sun if it sits low in the sky. Under the wide branches, there is almost total shadow, and no other plant can grow, so that a natural space of bare earth, trampled down by a thousand years of meetings, is left free. Since joining the Guild, the Belaminans have erected more permanent structures here, a wooden house three stories tall that surrounds the great trunk. This is the Court of Worlds, founded soon after the establishment of the Core Worlds, where six judges, one from each Core World and a Guild clerk, listen to grievances between world governments, over trade and politics.
The Belaminans have built their own port, before the Guild could do it for them, and as such, Greenport is a far cry from the square brick buildings and fortifications of Tridentport or Organport. Here, delicate woodwork has been fashioned into hollow spheres, connected by walkways and tubes that allow even the non-accustomed to easily move in the weightless environment of the Aether. And over everything grow plants, creepers and orchids, adapted by the druids to weightless conditions.
A brick- and cobblestone road, once perfectly smooth, but already pushed out of alignment by intruding roots, leads from the Port to the Court of Worlds. Along the miles of road, rangers patrol regularly, to keep the more ferocious of the forest's inhabitants away from those coming to court.
“Though the body is flesh, adamant is the soul, and through all the ravages of age it may not change. Though the mind is as quicksilver and ever-shifting as the whims command, it flows away in the winds of time, and only the soul, the adamant soul, remains.”
“It is sad, so sad. Once, they had all the mysteries of the planes and of life, and they only use them to prolong their deaths. They all died, they just don't remember it.”
-The high retriever
“A bloody opportunity. That's what Ashaton is. A gigantic, lost opportunity. Elsewhere, we melt down horseshoes and ****ing cooking pots to make enough nails to build the ships, and in Ashaton? The bloody metal grows on those damn trees. It's a shame they don't use it for anything useful. They would cry like little girls if they could over whether or not that bloody wire they bloody worked on for the last twenty years looks like their bloody sister's eyelash, but they won't make anything useful. Psh. Let them all die, then go in and get the damn metal, I say.”
-Ragnar Ulrikson, Captain of the Virgin's Tear
Ashaton was founded as a mine, though not by miners themselves. It was not one of the worlds of the exodus that were created following the destruction of the Material that was, but far older. The oldest runic records refer to it as the gift of the Soulforger, a title scholars assume refers to either the creator of the original world, or a deity of the Shattered Planes revered by the original miners. It was a demiplane closely modeled after the Planes of Earth and Minerals, to provide self-restoring, never exhausted metal veins.
The Plane was never intended as a save haven for refugees from a dying world, but much like beggars, people running for their lives can not exactly be choosers. There is evidence, in the oldest records, that food and water supplies were brought into the Plane to enable the survival of the colonists, and that the still present fungus farms were hastily erected, but this was not even remotely enough to feed what must have been, back then, thousands of refugees.
Civilian structures were built quickly, mining quarters expanded, large halls chiseled from the rock. but the main problem was still the food. hundreds starved, and when their corpses could no longer be buried and where thrown into the deepest chasm of the demiplane instead, countless ghosts, mad and hungry, began to haunt the halls. in their desperation, many turned to cannibalism, and so, in the depths of the Abyss, the first Ashai ghouls arose, another threat to feed on the few that remained alive, gaunt, famished terrors stalking the dark.
Then, one nameless alchemist had an insight from reading a piece of ancient scripture: „Though the body is flesh, adamant is the soul.“ With necromancy and alchemy, by processes long forgotten, he bound the spirits of the dying to the living adamant veins in the heart of the demiplane, storing their souls and minds for eternity in an existence between life and death. Most of those that were alive fashioned themselves bodies of the same living metal and vowed to do battle on the feral ghouls and restless spirits, to reclaim their world for the day when they might return to life.
When the Guild first explored Ashaton, they classified it as a lifeless rock and one of the least habitable worlds they had ever encountered. It was only eight years later, in Guild year 21, that a team of adventurers went deep into the heart of the system of caves and tunnels that forms this world that they found the Esh-khoma, the eternal holy wall, that surrounds Shemesh, as the inhabitants call their heartstone, and the warlike, but ultimately reasonable inhabitants therein.
From the outside, Ashaton looks more dull than most worlds, not shimmering as opal and pearls, but a muted light grey. Unlike most worlds, there was never an easy way into Ashaton, even when it was opened with a Penetrator, because the world is filled with a solid sphere of stone lying directly under the shell, and so most explorers would simply find themselves standing in front of a smooth wall.
There are entrances, though, shafts dug out into the Aether for air and supplies. Most always led and still lead to winding, serpentine tunnels that were dug to follow ore veins at some point in Ashaton's pre-cataclysmic history. Many of these not been entered by any living or, indeed, reasoning being for centuries, and are now inhabited only by slithering fungus creatures, the cave ghouls and the darkness, all of which rarely leave any would-be treasure hunters alive.
Even when they are empty, the Ashatonai caves are far from harmless. There are sudden, gaping chasms and crevices and winding labyrinths were one may never find a way out. But there are also rare and beautiful sights: caves filled with crystal towers yards wide and reflecting all the colours of the spectrum, glittering veins of gemstone and precious metal and hidden lakes of perfectly pure water, undisturbed since before the cataclsym.
The Guild, craving Ashaton's metal resources, has built an aether port for Ashaton, however, and has secured and widened several passages leading to the innermost chambers surrounding Shemesh, where the Asha'im live and work on the living veins.
These veins are still common in Ashaton, even after millennia of mining, because, like living creatures, they grow, almost like the roots of a gigantic tree, slowly refilling spaces that were mined in earlier centuries. In some places, old mining tunnels have been completely filled by dozens of metal strands winding around each other.
Not many types of creature still survive in Ashaton. There are, of course, the Asha'im, creatures of living metal. These are not crude shapes of stone and clay like the golems that served as their prototypes. The miners and artificers fashioned their own future bodies with create care , molding their bodies from adamantine and the finest mechanisms they could conceive. The body of the Asha'im are like beautiful watches, full of spinning clockwork and clicking gears, inlaid with precious metals, their faces like silver masks with beards of copper and dark bronze. Each has the dwarven sigil EMET carved upon his forehead to bring the body to true life.
In personality, the Asha'im are solemn, careful and reserved, a feature only enhanced by their often inexpressive, motionless features. They can live for centuries if they are not violently destroyed, but as they age, deep grief and longing for the glories of the Old World begins to grow in their soul, and many end their own existences willingly, following the honourable path and arming themselves for a last, violent pilgrimage to Tehom or simply removing their hearts from their bodies and dying. Their numbers, therefore, are ever-dwindling, for they produce new bodies to be inhabited only slowly and rarely. Their memories of the Old World grow distant as they age and many a hopeful scholar has come to know disappointment when questioning them about it.
An important aspect of Ashai culture is their respect for everything old. Many of them are near a millennium old, and they will prefer one idea over another simply because it has existed for a longer time. They distrust all that is new. Their war machines work on designs that are centuries old, and once one of them has found a schema that is deemed to work well, it will be followed. They spend their time listening to the dead of the ancient past, who are, at the same time their families, and no new soul has entered Ashaton since it was created, as no children are ever born here.
Rule Note: The Warforged of Eberron are suggested for use as Asha'im, as the living construct subtype and their modular nature serves perfectly to emulate a race of artificers and smiths that have fashioned their own bodies out of metal.
In recent years, some few brave living beings have set up residence in Ashaton, to make their wealth as miners and artificers, mostly of gnomish and dwarven stock.
Most tunnels of Ashaton, however, are not safe. The cave ghouls, distant, more feral cousins of the ghouls of other planes, stalk the halls. They have smaller bodies, but longer limbs, and are able to scale even overhanging walls with their curved claws and wet, sucker-like hands. The Ashai ghouls are almost blind, but able to smell living creatures over long distances, and they will never abandon prey unless destroyed or threatened by the light they fear.
In the deepest and most distant tunnels, there are things even darker than the ghouls. The deep chasms of Tehom are filled with dark waters and slithering creatures grown from the abandoned fungus farms, the primeval shadows that have never seen any light and the dark acts committed in these tunnels in the desperate years after the cataclysm.
Finally, there are the Ashai war machines, engines of destruction the Asha'im set free to decimate the ghouls and reconquer their plane. Some are dumb golems, blindly wandering the tunnels and striking dead whatever they find, but there are more sophisticated war machines, crawling things in the shapes of spiders and scorpions that lurk in ancient halls.
For all these reasons, travelers to Ashaton would to well not to leave the guild's safe paths.
Ashaton has two things in abundance: metal and darkness. The first is all the inhabitants need, the second is all they care about. Though no one knows how this is possible, the cave ghouls somehow increase in numbers in Tehom, though there are no bodies there for them to feed on, nor people to be transformed, nor spellcasters to create them magically,every few years they pour forth from the depths by the hundreds, to throw themselves on the defences of the Asha'im.
Therefore, the Asha'im have only two pursuits in life. Military service, which they take up only out of a sense of duty, but with no joy, and the forge, in which they create both new war machines and, more importantly to them, new bodies for the spirits of their loved ones to inhabit. Most Asha'im will create only one or two bodies during their entire existances, but they will work over these for decades, even centuries, to make them perfect. The facial masks will be built on the memory of every aspect of a loved ones face, and the bodies should be not only beautiful, but also strong and dexterous to provide for all the needs of the new inhabitant. Only when it has been perfected is the body sent to the Ore Orchard so that a new soul can be implanted.
The government of Ashaton is a complicated process. The inhabitants are few and lawful enough that no big bureaucracy is needed to govern them and, indeed, to an outsider it might seem as if Ashaton has no government at all. The Asha'im pay respect to each other based on a complicated system of age, skill, inheritance and achievement, but they will rarely if ever call each other by any kind of official title. Instead, they all remember the traditions and laws, and follow them, reminding each other that they are in a time of crisis and have to pull together if they ever want to succeed in bringing all the dead back to life. There are, of course, conflicts and crime, but these are solved swiftly and brutally by the entire community.
A few Asha'im leave the main community, and the main ore veins that carry the spirits of the dead, to build their own isolated workshops in remote areas of the plane, miles from Shemesh and the lighted center of the plane to work on their own projects, free from the often stifling beliefs and traditions that govern every aspect of life behind the wall of fire. These are seen as traitors by the orthodox Asha'im, who have turned their backs on the sacred traditions and their own flesh and blood, the spirits of the dead, and their responsibility of fashioning new bodies for them.
Shemesh is the Heartstone of Ashaton, a single, flawless diamond twelve feet across, hung from the ceiling of the gigantic hall of Levor in a fine net of mithral. It not only keeps the living veins growing, but also creates the only light in Ashaton, a light that can rival any in the known planes in intensity. This light is scattered and concentrated by a complicated system of crystal prisms, lenses and silver mirrors to fill the outer tunnels and chambers of the inhabited parts of the plane. It is said that the light of Shemesh dispels all falsehoods, so that no illusions and shapeshifters can exist in the hall. Since the Ashai have heard of the Faceless, they have started a new monthly ritual where they all gather around the Shemesh to prove their identity. Whether this has any real effect or not is unknown, as no Facless spy has ever been discovered this way.
Finally, most of this light ends up empowering the Esh-Khoma, the secured perimeter around the innermost chambers of Ashaton. Despite its name translating as “Wall of Fire”, it is not a true wall, but instead a series of parabolic mirrors and powerful lenses which are used to paralyze and burn any ghoul which makes it this close to the Heartstone.
Inside Esh-Khoma lie the halls and workshops of the Asha'im. They need no food or sleep, and so, most of them have no private rooms but their own little workshop. However, they love to talk, and so, they have untold halls and forums, each dedicated to a special occasion. Since the Asha'im are immortal and they pride themselves on being able to work for months without taking any breaks, each single stone is worked to the highest standard, carved with images of the glorious past.
Air, almost exclusively used by the Asha'im not for breathing but to fire their forges and smelters comes into the world by way of the Neshamah, a series of tubes and passages connecting the inner chambers to the Aether outside, where phlogistated air is directly created from protoplasm. The Neshamah is, in fact, shaped to create sounds almost like a gigantic pipe organ, to signal the precise flow of air and any possible disruptions to the Asha'im operating the forges. These pipes have been carefully tuned, and even the tiniest repair work on them is given only to a special group of Asha'im who have mastered both music and masonry to the highest degree.
The Metal Orchards are where the Asha'im gain their metals. Here, the metal veins have been carefully cultivated, so that they grow out of floor and walls in branching shapes resembling leafless trees and banks of coral. As these veins also bind the revered spirits of dead Asha'im of earlier ages, comparably little of this metal is taken, and only under careful consideration. If the body of an Asha'im is destroyed beyond repair, the adamantine heart of his body is removed and brought to this hall, to be planted into the ground where, soon, veins will grow over it and form a new metal tree, which will contain the Asha'im's soul. The kind of metal, so the Asha'im believes, reflects the personality of the departed. The Asha'im can, in fact, communicate with the trees via complicated necromantic processes and so talk to these spirits which, unlike most in the Aether, show no sign of deteriorating or going insane.
Near the Orchards lies the Nexus, where all the metal veins of Ashaton meet in a tangle the size of a building. Here, the spirits of the dead reside, bound to the metal veins. The Asha'im come here to reside amongst the remnants of their former loved ones, even though necromantic or psionic talent is necessary to talk to them.
Necromancy is, a sacred art to the Asha'im. They have no bodies that could be raised as lifeless abominations, and suffer few of the afflictions a necromancer can curse the living with, but they appreciate the art of communicating with spirits, and the talent of influencing the ghouls of Tehom.
Sanctified necromancers spend their time in the nexus, talking to the dead and relating their words, which are given much weight, to those who still have bodies. The dead are seen as wise, and difficult cases of law, where much interpretation of the traditions is required are brought to them for decision.
The Halls of Living Laws is where the Asha'im store all their traditions, laws and sayings, engraved in their runic script upon tablets of metal taller than a man. In the belief system of the Asha'im, words can never perfectly capture all the subtleties of a law, so that the spirit of the Asha'im who wrote a particular law is always bound to that tablet, so that students of the law can discuss its intent and nuances and gain a deeper understanding. Influential scholars and interpreters of a law are also, sometimes, bound to the same tablet, so that for those able to perceive the bound spirits, the hall more resembles a busy forum full of loud, heated, often angry discussion than a solemn archive.
Tehom is what the Asha'im call the deepest abyss of the plane, a dark chasm filled with black, oily waters and monstrosities so powerful that not even the Guild, in their efforts to pacify the world have ever reached it. It is said that near it, the very shadows become alive and that the darkness swallows all illumination, so that no torch, crystal or spell can shed any light on its depth.
Organport, maintained by the Guild, is Ashaton's only port, maintained to deliver the valuable metal of the dark world to the other worlds. It resembles a fortress more than a port, with ballistae and magical fires protecting the tunnel entrances nearby. Guild marines trained in tunnelfighting and slaying ghouls are constantly stationed here to protect the passages to the metal orchard.
The Guild: The Asha'im mistrust the Guild. They need resources from the other worlds, and the Guild's help in dealing with the ghouls and shadows from Tehom, but they are reluctant to give up even a single bar of copper or iron, let alone mithral or adamantine in exchange. A few of the Asha'im renegades, always more forward looking than most, have joined the Guild as artificers, however, a fact that does not exactly endear the organisation to the orthodox Asha'im.
The Faceless Cabal: The Asha'im praise honesty and openness highly, even to the point of offending people more used to the occasional white lie. They therefore abhor the very idea of Faceless, even though it seems that the Faceless largely ignore them.
The House of the Sun: The House came from Ashaton, and the Asha'im respect it. It seeks out those which are, in many cases even older, and therefore wiser, than the oldest Asha'im, an endeavour worthy of praise. They are maybe a bit too proactive, and certainly too interested in finding new technologies instead of applying the wisdom of their forbears, but though misguided, their goals are noble.
The Order: In the Order, the Asha'im see a philosphy that agrees with them well. They seek to know their place, as the Order does, and respect for their elders and betters is built into their very nature. Many Asha'im, if they ever concern themselves with religion, join the Order.
The Retrievers: Another great customer for Asha'im resources, the Retrievers have an endless thirst for new weaponry for any kind and even the largest of war machines the Asha'im can offer. Ever since the Ashai golems proved such a vital weapon in the Veil Wars, the Retrievers have great respect for the Asha'im, treating them as their greatest allies.
Last edited by Eldan; 2012-10-25 at 04:19 PM.
"You raise your baton. The glass kettle drums pound out the the overture. Your vision clouds with blood. You wipe it away and continue. The xylophonist's hair bursts into a violet flame, but he continues playing. He's either a consummate professional or very drunk indeed..."
Originally Posted by Palanan